Last week, news broke that Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer promised to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital if elected in 2019. Following in United States president Donald Trump's footsteps, Scheer chose to disregard decades of international law and consensus, proclaiming, "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel."
It doesn't seem to matter to Scheer that dozens of human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have strongly condemned Trump's Jerusalem's decision as "reckless" and "provocative." It also doesn't seem to matter to Scheer that the majority of the world has agreed that altering the status of Jerusalem is unacceptable. Scheer's inflammatory Jerusalem promise lacks the principle and balance that we expect from experienced political representatives.
One can't help but notice that Scheer holds a double standard when it comes to Israel. For example, while Scheer has been very vocal about the rights of Ukrainians, encouraging Canada to take stronger positions condemning the annexation of Crimea and continued "Russian aggression," Scheer has completely refrained from acknowledging, let alone criticizing, Israel's decades-long illegal annexation of East Jerusalem.
Such a double standard reveals a total indifference to Palestinian human rights, and substantiates anthropologist Talal Asad's critical thesis that "human life has differential exchange value," whereby some lives are less valuable than the lives of others.
In his promise, Scheer states that "Canada's Conservatives recognize the obvious fact that Israel, like every other sovereign nation, has a right to determine where its capital is located." Such a statement is completely one-sided, with zero mention of the Palestinian connection to Jerusalem. In a single meagre sentence, Scheer manages to erase Palestinian claims to Jerusalem, obfuscate the reality on the ground,and banish any possibility of Palestinian sovereignty.
Canadians should be outraged at Scheer's dishonest misrepresentation of the situation in Jerusalem. By failing to distinguish between the legal status of East and West Jerusalem, the Conservative statement misleads everyday Canadians to believe that East Jerusalem is legally part of the Israeli state. In omitting this key information, Scheer decontextualizes the status of Jerusalem, watering down the contentious nature of his statement and the severe ramifications it will have for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Scheer's Jerusalem announcement flies in the face of this policy, and indirectly legitimizes Israel's illegal actions in Jerusalem.
In reality, international law is very clear about the status of Jerusalem: even though the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan designated Jerusalem as an international city, in 1967 Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem and began colonizing the city with Jewish settlers. For decades, the UN has repeatedly admonished Israel for these illegal actions in East Jerusalem.
Today, the international community has agreed that the status of Jerusalem is a "final status issue" to be resolved through bilateral peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Canada has historically developed foreign policy on Israel-Palestine that supports this international consensus.
Scheer's Jerusalem announcement flies in the face of this policy, and indirectly legitimizes Israel's illegal actions in Jerusalem. By recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Scheer gives a nod to Israel's colonial ambitions for the city.
Under Scheer's leadership, Canada will entrench its reputation as a renegade nation on the issue of Israel-Palestine. Under both the Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau administrations, Canada has gradually moved away from a neutral position in the conflict, singling itself out as an ardent supporter of Israel. This can be seen in Canada's acquiescence to Trump's Jerusalem decree, and persistent poor voting record on Palestinian human rights at the UN. While our government considers itself a "steadfast ally" of Israel, we are only a mere "friend" to the Palestinian people. Even that statement can be considered hyperbolic.
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During the recent UN General Assembly vote on Trump's Jerusalem decree, longstanding Canadian allies such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Japan voted to condemn unilateral actions that alter the status of Jerusalem. Canada feebly abstained. Under Scheer, Canada will be condemned alongside Trump.
Canadians expect our politicians to take principled positions that respect international law and efforts for peace. Jerusalem promise is void of any principle, pawning off Palestinians in a game of electoral politics. Canadians are sick of Conservative political ploys that scapegoat marginalized populations to pander to domestic bases.
One sad fact is certain: if Scheer is ever allowed to carry out his promise, it will only prolong the misery and suffering between Israelis and Palestinians.
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